The Housing Boom's 'Elephant in The Room

June 12, 2013

Well, that’s two straight Tuesdays that U.S. stocks have fallen. Has Wall Street finally noticed that the real estate sector – the only big winner in American’s sham “recovery” besides the stock market itself – is starting to deteriorate?  Hard to say, although lately, we’ve had our doubts that yield-crazed U.S. investors would lose a beat even if an epidemic were to wipe out half of the world’s population. They barely flinched a couple of weeks ago when Japan’s stock market was freefalling. And if deepening recession in Europe and a steep drop in China’s output bode trouble head for the global economy, neither factor has had a noticeable impact on U.S. stocks, which touched record highs as recently as two weeks ago.

Now, however, comes a worry that will literally hit investors where they live: a steep increase in long-term yields that has pushed 30-year mortgage rates up by 56 basis points in just the last five weeks.  As our colleague Michael Belkin notes, this is equivalent to two rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. An immediately visible result, he says, is that mortgage applications dropped 11% last week and mortgage lenders are starting to lay off brokers. If home sales start to cool even slightly, we wouldn’t be surprised if the “wealth effect” that the Fed has struggled so hard to create over the last five years vanishes in a trice, since Americans have precious few things these days, other than inflated home values, to make them feel wealthier. (Certainly not higher real incomes, which have stagnated since the 1970s.) 

 

From a technical standpoint, T-Bond futures still have a little room to fall before they hit our red zone.  That would imply a drop to around 137-7/32, basis the September contract. (Note: yesterday’s low was 137-25/32.)  In recent years, the Fed has moved aggressively to reverse the bearish tide when it reached or slightly exceeded our proprietary “Hidden Pivot” targets. Although the futures got a strong bounce yesterday off the lows, we still expect a relapse that will bring them even closer to the danger zone. Market-watchers should pay close attention if and when 137-7/32 is approached, since a decisive breach of that price – implying a move below 137 – could imply that market forces are beginning to push back against Fed stimulus. (Click here for a free trial subscription to Rick’s Picks that would allow you to follow these trends in real time.)

End Easing? Get Real!

We have repeatedly emphasized here that worries about the central bank tapering off its quantitative easing program are misplaced, since even a mere hint that the Fed is willing to consider such an option has been enough to send stocks swooning. However, if market forces were to cause long-term yields to rise even another 50 basis points, this could jolt the markets severely. What might give rise to such “market forces”? Most obviously, weakness in the U.S. dollar. The greenback has been leaden over the last two weeks, raising doubts about whether its status as the world’s safe-haven currency can endure indefinitely.  Probably not, but our hunch is that the current bull market will resume once investors get over their misplaced fear that Japan is done devaluing the yen. In any case, the ICEUS Dollar Index, currently trading for around 81.11, still has further to fall before reaching our correction target. If this is correct, you should look for the bull market to regain traction from 80.66, or if any lower, 80.19.

 



Information and commentary contained herein comes from sources believed to be reliable, but this cannot be guaranteed. Past performance should not be construed as an indication of future results, so let the buyer beware. There is a substantial risk of loss in futures and option trading, and even experts can, and sometimes do, lose their proverbial shirts. Rick's Picks does not provide investment advice to individuals, nor act as an investment advisor, nor individually advocate the purchase or sale of any security or investment. From time to time, its editor may hold positions in issues referred to in this service, and he may alter or augment them at any time. Investments recommended herein should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor, and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company. Rick's Picks reserves the right to use e-mail endorsements and/or profit claims from its subscribers for marketing purposes. All names will be kept anonymous and only subscribers' initials will be used unless express written permission has been granted to the contrary. All Contents © 2011, Rick Ackerman. All Rights Reserved. www.rickackerman.com

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